I would have to tell you it was in my dreams, but truthfully it wasn’t. I didn’t even see it as a possibility. It wasn’t within reach because I didn’t see either of us here or
Yet, there we were. I remember when she was pursuing her Bachelors in Africana Studies after spending decades as a stay-at-home mother who ran a successful cleaning business. Achieving her Bachelors was only the beginning and one of the many ways she modeled that there is no timeline on becoming who you were meant to become. She also warned me (many times) that nothing can prepare you for being a stay at home mother.
Some say it’s thankless.
Some say it’s the toughest job there is.
Some say it’s isolating.
I say it’s not made for the weak (while crying at least once a week about how the job can easily bring me to my knees).
It wasn’t until I had my own children and left a career that I realized just how honorable her decision was for all of the sacrificial ways she chose her children over a career. You see, it’s not just the careers that stay at home parents give up. It’s the:
The acknowledgment and recognition,
The financial security,
The social connection,
The uninterrupted bathroom and lunch breaks.
The quiet rides to and from work.
It’s many things. What I have come to learn is that being a stay at home parent may be a privilege, but it is nothing short of a choice too. Don’t believe me? Just take a peek at my student loan debt that has been in deferment and the 401K investment that is a big ‘ol, fat zero.
I watched her continue on to her very first job in the human services field. It didn’t take long before everyone began to recognize what we already knew. Her determination was fierce and she would stop at nothing to achieve that to which she once believed to be impossible. From prevention services, domestic violence advocacy, the Director of Criminal Justice for the National Alliance of Mental Illness to becoming the Director of Family Empowerment & Support Services at the Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc. I have had the privilege of watching her transition from being the caretaker of four children to being the influential caretaker to the vulnerable, oppressed and powerless. Her modeling had a powerful influence on me and it’s no coincidence that I chose my path in the field of human services because of the values she bestowed upon me.
When I left my career to become a stay at home parent, I was terrified. I perceived it as professional suicide at the age of 30 when I had a decade of successful engagement within the field. I never liked taking risks and I despise change, but my pull to be at home with my children was stronger than a hefty paycheck. When the Vice President of a local college encouraged me to apply for a part-time position, those demons of worthiness revisited me. Was I that professional I used to be? At this point it had been nearly four years and all I knew was diapers, breastfeeding, potty-training and social groups where the predominate topic of conversation was which essential oil people preferred.
I couldn’t let the opportunity go and I’m grateful I didn’t allow the familiar feeling of fear to consume me. It’s been nearly three years since I took that fateful leap onto unfamiliar territory with the belief that I had something to offer. Turns out, it was the best decision I made. I was fortunate to merge the world of nearly ten years of experience in the human services field with the gift of gab. The minute I step foot into the classroom, the woman that existed before motherhood did, comes alive. She is back.
Today was different though.
I was asked to speak at a Faculty Institute at a local college where I was joined by someone I never expected to accompany me. I was asked to speak about Mental Health Literacy, the astounding stigma and how to honor mental health within the classroom. There we were in front of professionals within the field presenting a topic that hits close to home both personally and professionally. I talk about these very topics as an Instructor, but why was this presentation so different?
I had the best co-facilitator.
She was my mother.
I watched her like I have so many other times except there were a few moments when I couldn’t hear anything. All I saw was her. I saw the woman who scrubbed toilets to make sure she could pick me up and drop me off from school each day. I saw the woman who raised four daughters while putting herself through college at the age of 40. I saw the woman who taught us to “fight for the under-dog” and led by the very example she spoke of. I saw the woman who taught me it was more honorable to fight for those who didn’t have a voice and why vulnerability isn’t a sign of weakness. I saw a woman who continues to help thousands of people every week because she believed in a dream contrary to what she was born to think possible. I saw the woman who gave me life and continues to give air every time I’m gasping for an oxygen tank.
It was a moment I will never forget. I didn’t want the moment to end. I wanted to do it again. I stood there beside someone not many people can say they were able to stand beside in a professional setting and about topics so close to our heart. I was proud. I am proud. She may have been the Director of Suicide Prevention, Family Engagement & Support to people in the crowd, but for me she was my mom.
It was the start of a new beginning and opportunity. No one could have told me I’d be here and not even my wildest dreams could have imagined it would be with my mother. Life is funny. It teaches you how powerless and out of control we really are of our destiny. Sometimes that terrifies me and other times, I sit back grateful.
She is the one person aside from my three children who I know loves me unconditionally. It’s a bond that only mothers know to be true. I don’t just love her, at 36 years old I can honestly say I like her too. I can tell you this. The dream I have had is that my daughter will look back at me one day with the same honor and pride I have for my mother.
Today, I was proud to stand beside her and abundantly grateful.
I love you mom.
In Love & Truth,